BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI Bernalillo County says it's a step closer to finally resolving its 21-year-old jail overcrowding case. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge James Parker approved a settlement agreement between the county and the plaintiffs in the McClendon case which outlines how the county's progress will be monitored in the areas of population, mental health and medical services, the county said in announcing the latest agreement. The county characterized the deal as a “major agreement which could help resolve the 21-year-old class action lawsuit against the county over living conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center.” In his order approving the agreement, Parker wrote, “The settlement agreement provides a way to solidify improvements at the MDC an eventually end this decades-old lawsuit. It is the court's sincerest hope that the parties will achieve these goals.” The McClendon lawsuit was filed in 1995 when the inmate population at the old Downtown jail often exceeded 900. That jail was built to hold 586 inmates. The MDC opened in 2003 and can house up to 2,236 inmates, but, over the years, the population often rose above 2,900. The federal court has since capped the population at 1,950 inmates. On Wednesday, the MDC's inmate population was 1,367, the county said.
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